Sonatas: Leopold Wlach, Jörg Demus, [mono ADD] Westminster
Sonatas: Bela Kovacs, clarinet; Ferenc Rados,
piano. Hungaroton HCD 12796
Trio Bornalie: (Kaiser, Gouton, Saito) HERA 02113
(see my review)
Trio Gemelli: (Bradbury, Bradbury, Segal) The Divine Art
25009 (see my review)
Of the nine occasions when Johannes Brahms set
out seriously to write a symphony, only four times did
he carry this intention all the way through to publication.
On two occasions, Opp. 11 and 21, he published the work
as a four movement “Serenade.” The remaining three attempts
ended up as, respectively, the Piano Concerto No. 1,
Op. 10, the Piano Quintet in f, Op. 39 — and this Clarinet
Trio, Op. 114. Rumors circulated for years that Brahms “Fifth” Symphony
had reached serious sketching stage. Grieg invited Brahms
to visit him Norway to complete the Symphony, perhaps thinking
that the physical or aesthetic atmosphere in Vienna was
somehow preventing Brahms from working. Brahms however
refused to travel far from Vienna for any reason, and for
whatever reason, the Fifth Symphony never appeared.
But when the idea struck him to write a Clarinet Trio,
the sketches proved easy to translate, and the reason here
is probably not hard to see. Brahms had for some time felt
that the future of music lay in greater transparency; the
works of Wagner as well as his own symphonies had plumbed
to the bottom the depths of orchestral mass. His Double
Concerto, intended as the first of a series of works invoking
Baroque aesthetics, did not go over well. But a four movement
symphony for three instruments worked out just fine.
This performance sounds very good until you hear
one where the performers have that final bit of breathing-together*
intensity of ensemble, that final bit of confidence and
gracefulness that only people who play together for decades
achieve. Fröst and friends, perhaps encouraged by the power
and depth available in SACD sound, go as far as one ought
to to try to invoke a symphonic dimension to this work.
Soloist Fröst plays loudly throughout often moving into
the metallic register of his instrument, as though he were
concentrating on filling a large hall with sound. At times
they sound not merely dark but heavy, achieving an almost
symphonic grandeur consistent with the work’s history.
Other recordings I have heard, including the ones listed
above, achieve more momentum and buoyancy; they place the
microphones closer and allow the soloist to produce a hushed,
soft, sweet sound when called for.
*None dare call it “conspiracy.”